Encoding for iBooks Author Webinar: Download Free Proof of Concept iBook


Note: With the June 2014 release of iBooks Author, the procedures discussed here no longer work. Good luck with your iBooks Author encodes.

In my upcoming webinar, Encoding for iBooks Author (register here), I claim that "by using the lessons learned in this webinar, you’ll be able to include more minutes of videos in your iBooks, or the same number of minutes in a much smaller footprint." To prove the concept, I created an iBook with seven video files that you can freely download here. By practicing the techniques I'll demonstrate during the webinar, the seven files I produced (195 MB total) were about 400 MB smaller than those produced by iBooks Author (591 MB), with no visual difference. Click here to download the free 800 MB iBook.

Here's an overview of the work that I did and the results that I produced. 

Here are the sample files that I worked with. If you want to see them, download the iBook and take a look. 

Sample Files

1.  Standard test file; 3:09 in duration, dragged into iBooks Author at full 1080p resolution

2.  Standard test file, 3:09 in duration, dragged into iBooks author at 640x360 resolution

3.  720p interview of Jan Ozer (on Adobe dropping Flash in Android), 4:50 in duration.

4.  Promo video for Jan Ozer’s new Udemy course, 2:51 in duration, dragged in at 720p.

5.  Ballet audition, (thankfully not of Jan Ozer), 1:00 minute long dragged in at 720p

6.  Udemy course, PowerPoint and audio, 4:48 duration, dragged in at 720p

7.  Screencam software demonstration, 3:41, dragged in at 720p

The sample files were either in ProRes formats (the first two), or in high data rate MP4 format as encoded for upload to my compression course distributor (Udemy, videos 4, 6, 7) or for uploading to an online video platform (3, 5). The theory being, since we know iBooks Author is going to reencode the videos, we should supply the highest possible quality for that operation, since GIGO (garbage in/garbage out). 


Using these source videos, I dragged the original files into iBooks Author and let the program optimize as normal. I then encoded my own at the most efficient data rate possible in HandBrake and dragged these into iBooks Author. I used HandBrake because it's free, but you should be able to achieve the same results in any program that uses the x.264 codec. I've tested Episode and Squeeze and I know it works. Because of the settings that I used, which I'll share in the upcoming webinar, iBooks Author did not re-encode these files. 

I then unzipped the iBooks file to see the data rate iBooks Author used during optimization so I could compare it to my own. Here's the comparison from File Manager. The share-eyed reader will note the CQ25 text after most of my encoded files. That’s because I used Handbrake’s CQ mode to produce these files. I’ll explain what that is and why it’s great for iBooks in the webinar.


Here's the comparison in table format. 


The table above shows the results, all size numbers in MB. Feel free to deconstruct the .iBook file, and you’ll see the results shown above.

In all instances, my file sizes were significantly lower than iBooks Author. The most dramatic difference was in the Promo video, where my file was 7% of that produced by iBooks Author. This file contains talking head video for the first 20 seconds or so, and the last, with screencam in between. There was also a significant difference in the last two files, both screencams. As you would expect, the most modest saving was with the 640x360 video, only 42%.

For the record, I performed these tests on an Apple MacPro circa 2009 running the latest version of iBooks Author. To verify the results, I duplicated the work on another MacPro of similar vintage and got the same results.

I should say that I think iBooks Author is a fabulous program, and if I was in Apple’s shoes, I would use exceptionally high data rates in my presets as well. This is the strategy taken by most encoding vendors, because they don’t want to produce ugly video. When you’re producing your own videos, of course, you can experiment and choose the optimal mix of quality and file size. In the webinar, you’ll learn how to do just that.

I should also say that my research wasn't exhaustive. It's possible that there are other techniques that also reduce the file size of videos optimized by iBooks Author. If you're currently inserting files into iBooks Author and avoiding optimization, you're already golden; don't download the book, don't attend the webinar. But if your video files are being optimized when you insert them into iBooks Author, and you're concerned about file size, you'll find the 30-minute webinar time well spent. 

So, click here to register for the webinar; here to download the free iBook to see the results for yourself. 

Comments (1)

Said this on 04/10/2014 At 02:57 am

thank you

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